Archetypes of Graphic Design: Early 20th-Century Design Movements


“Archetypes speak the language of high rhetoric.”
—Carl Jung

An archetype is defined as “an original model after which other similar things are patterned.” In other words, an archetype is a classic example. Archetypes exist in all the arts. Ideas, images, color palettes, forms, and structures are used and reused in new ways all the time.

Choose five of the following design movements and find one archetype of graphic design from each:

  • Art Deco
  • Constructivism
  • Bauhaus
  • Cubism
  • Futurism
  • Dadaism
  • Sachplakat
  • Surrealism

Then find five works that are visually similar and/or show influence and were produced at least 50 years after each archetype. Present the pairs of images that show similarity or influence beside each other on a single page, each one at approximately the same size. The pairs of works can show similarity in form (e.g., line, shape, color, typography), content (e.g., people, animals, plants), or both.

Following the sample presentation shown here, set up the pairs of images that show similarity or influence beside each other on a single, letter-sized page. Each image should be approximately the same size. Submit each page as separate JPEG images. Name each page according to the following naming convention:

3_designmovements_yourlastname_(1, 2, 3, 4, 5).jpg

Example: 3_designmovements_smith_2.jpg

Along with your JPEG images, post a PDF of a single-page, letter-sized sheet with a list of the labels for each of your images. On this single sheet identify each JPEG by the number used so that your instructor may cross-reference the images and the labels. Include the following information about the two images using the given format:

JPEG number. Early 20th-Century Design Movement Name / More Than 50 Years Later 
Title of Work / Title of Work
Year of Design / Year of Design
Designer / Designer


Ancient works (and even some modern works) will not have a designer. In such instances, you may use: Designer Unknown.

Here’s an example. (Note that this uses made-up information and is only an example.)

1. Constructivism / More Than 50 Years Later
Soviet Poster / Campaign Poster
1920 / 2008
Designer Unknown / Shepherd Farley

(This label would be cross-referenced with the file name 3_designmovements_yourlastname_1.jpg)

Note the following information on image quality:

  • Do not embed your images. Instead, attach your images.
  • Whether you scan the archetype from a printed source or copy and paste it from the Internet, you should save it as a JPEG.
  • The pairs should be no larger than 800 x 600 pixels at 72 dpi. Be sure that you do not distort any of your images (i.e., always maintain aspect ratio).
  • Avoid moiré patterns when you scan images from printed material.
  • Do not present any images that are pixelated or fuzzy due to having been enlarged beyond their original resolution.
  • Works originally in color should be presented in color. Avoid shifts in hue, saturation, or value.

In short, you are providing a documentary record of these historical works, and you want to be very careful to present all your images as close as possible to their original state.

Be sure to include a brief summary of your work on this project in your post.


You will be graded on the quality of design exemplified in your images (i.e., through your curating efforts) as well as on the clarity of the relationship between the two images in each pair. The visual similarities between the two images should be obvious, requiring little or no explanation. The more astonishing the similarities and the farther apart in time, the better. You will be penalized if you do not adhere to the parameters of the project or do not follow directions for presenting and labeling the images. Late work will not be accepted.

Grading Criteria

Following Directions (Hurdle Task: Must be “Meets” to pass):

Images were of sufficient size and quality as per instructions: Meets/Doesn’t Meet

Label PDF listing the archetype, title of work, year of design, and designer (if applicable): Meets/Doesn’t Meet

Gave a brief summary of your work on this project in your post: Meets/Doesn’t Meet

Critical Thinking:

Presented five pairs of images that show an archetypal relationship from the list below: Each pair shows an archetype of graphic design and a comparison image that is visually similar or shows influence and shows similarity in form (e.g., line, shape, color, typography), content (e.g., people, animals, plants, machines), or both.

Each of the five pairs is scored out of a possible 10 points as follows*:
– The clarity of the relationship of the two images in each pair 
– How obvious the visual similarities between the two images are (this should require little or no explanation) 
– Extra points awarded for more astonishing similarities/farther apart in time

Must include five from the following list:
1. Art Deco/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
2. Constructivism/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
3. Bauhaus/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
4. Cubism/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
5. Futurism/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
6. Dadaism/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
7. Sachplakat/Comparison: from at least 50 years later 
8. Surrealism/Comparison: from at least 50 years later

Final score out of a possible 50 expressed as a letter grade = *

Grading formula for each pair: 
+ 8 similar form or visually similar 
+ 2 unexpected/unusual pairing with a clear connection 
– 2 if the connection is difficult to see 
– 4 if second example is a copy, homage, or parody


AIGA Design Archives:
Icons of Graphic Design by Steven Heller and Mirko Illic


The purpose is to study a great number of graphic design works and take note of the patterns and similarities in works produced in completely different time periods. The research, comparison, and documentation required by this Exploration are similar to the first steps good designers take when starting a new project. It is vital to your design process to be familiar with existing works and to be able to see their relationships.

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